Ladies of the Lantern
During Nano’s time, religious sisters were expected to remain enclosed in convents, so Nano and her assistants performed their works of charity without becoming a religious congregation. This gave them the freedom to visit the poor in their homes.
By 1757, Nano had opened seven secret schools, five for girls and two for boys. On Christmas Eve 1775, Nano and three companions founded the Society for Charitable Instruction of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. They lived in a cottage near the Ursuline Sisters’ convent. They began to build a convent nearby and in 1780, moved in. When seeking approval for their rule they were advised to change their name, and in honour of the Virgin Mary’s presentation in the Temple of Jerusalem, they chose the title ‘Presentation Sisters’. Church tradition holds that Anne and Joachim, Mary’ parents, were childless for many years. They were filled with such gratitude for the gift of Mary’s life that at the age of three they brought Mary to the Jewish temple and dedicated her to the service of the Temple. There she lived, served, and studied until she was betrothed to Joseph.
By the time of her death in 1784, Nano had set up a network of such schools with over 400 pupils in seven parishes. She also visited the sick and elderly after school, working long into the night and thus earning the nickname The Lady with the Lantern. For this reason, the lantern is the symbol for the Presentation Sisters worldwide.
Why is the lantern a symbol that continues to represent the Presentation Charism today?